TV Tuesday: Legion
Available on: Hulu
Number of Seasons: 3
You know that feeling when you jolt out a dream so intense that you can’t separate reality from the world you just woke up from?
Mix that with a mind melting, ego death inducing, panic attack causing bad acid trip and you might come close to what it feels like to watch Legion, the FX drama based on Marvel comic book super(hero? Villain? Psychopath? All of the above?) of the same name. The ambitious show is disorienting, wildly trippy and often makes me question my own sanity. It's also one of the best Marvel affiliated projects ever created.
Now I know some folks have a (bullshit) Marvel movie bias, so before I lose all the Marvel haters reading this let me just tell you Legion is not like any superhero movie you’ve ever seen. Unlike Marvel films that are forced to fit a certain box so that it will sell tickets, Legion combines genres like horror, thriller, mystery, superhero and avant-garde to create something closer to a psychedelic, sci-fi mystery than a superhero flick.
Last Monday Legion aired the last episode of its third and final season, ending the show on ambiguous high note that had me re-watching the next day. Here’s a quick recap of the show along with some of the reasons to put it first on your binge list.
Created by Noah Hawley and airing in early 2017, Legion is the first Marvel project outside of the X-Men movies to take place in the X-men universe. The show stars Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens as David Haller, the schizophrenic son of Charles Xavier (Professor X), alongside actress Rachel Keller as mutant Sydney Barret and Aubrey Plaza as Lennore “Lenny” Busker.
When we first meet David Haller (Legion) in season one, he is a suicidal schizophrenic who thinks his own psychic powers are only a part of his mental delusions. Living in the surreal mental asylum “Clockworks” with fellow patients Lenny and Syd, David is noticed by an outside group of mutants called Division III when he accidentally uses his powers to kill Lenny.
Over the course of the season Division III helps David learn that he has almost unlimited powers, along with the fact that he has been haunted by another mutant “The Shadow King”, who lives inside his psyche and assumes the form of his dead friend Lenny.
At the end of the season the Shadow King leaves David’s brain, escaping Division III in the process.
Season 2 highlights the relationship between David and Amal Farouk(The Shadow King) as they fight for power in the astral plane. It also chronicles David’s descent into madness as his god like powers erode away his sense of right and wrong (Don’t worry, they do a better job than Game of Thrones.)
In the first two seasons Legion tears apart the idea of reality, the line between what’s real and what is in your head. In the third season, they tear apart time.
David goes completely off his rocker and finds a time traveling mutant named Switch to help him change his past. Ignoring the fact that his attempts are destroying reality, David returns to the past over and over in desperation, trying to fix his mistakes.
In the end his attempts lead him to meet his father, Professor X, and to have one last showdown with The Shadow King. But does he fix his own past?
Maybe. Maybe not. In the end the show leaves us with a satisfying, yet opened ended moment that capped off the 3 seasons better than I could have imagined.
There are a million reasons I can think of to watch Legion. The almost constant psychedelic visuals are amazing, the writing never goes stale, the characters all follow dynamic arcs across the 3 seasons and Aubrey Plaza is just a national treasure( I Stan). But the reasons don't stop there.
Today’s world of TV and film is controlled by money, with movies and shows like Endgame or Game of Thrones racking up budgets in the hundreds of millions.
While this allows for studios to pay for the best actors, writers and effects, it can also limit creative freedom. When you have put hundreds of millions into a film or show the studio wants to see profit, which means the project has to be popular in mainstream media.
For the last 3 years Legion has been the antidote to this big budget culture. Adventurous, ambitious and experimental, Legion came onto the TV scene with big gambles and no fear, and their risk paid off. TV like Legion shows big studios that their shows don't have to follow normal, mainstream conventions to be profitable.
Legion isn't normal. Legion isn't just a superhero show or a TV drama. Legion is some of the best, most creative content available and I'm hoping that it's successful 3 year run will inspire Marvel to take more creative risks in their upcoming shows and movies.
Evan N's Rating: 4.5/5